Every time about this year, I run into younger friends who say how much they love barbecue. Each time I hear it, I usually counter with “if you love it so much, why don’t you make it at home so you can have it more often.”
This is usually quickly followed by a look from my younger friends that suggest I’ve just asked him to go dig up some uranium in the back yard.
So let’s go over this. One. More. Time.
Making pulled pork barbecue is about as easy as it gets. It’s only about a quarter step up from boiling water. And when it’s on sale, you can make as much as you could probably eat in a month for 10 bucks.
The cut of meat you need to make barbecue from is called either a pork shoulder of a Boston Butt. It normally sells for between $1.79 to $1.99 pound and around holidays like Memorial Day, it’s usually on sale. Harris-Teeter, for example, is selling a Smithfield pork shoulder/Boston Butt for 99 cents a pound this week (what you should see at Harris Teeter should look exactly like the picture above), which means WE are having barbecue this weekend. For you folks who skipped math, that means a good sized 8-pound shoulder is going to cost under $8. Or about what you’ll pay for one barbecue sandwich at a Nationals game.
After you’ve purchased one, you need to allow two days before you plan to serve it. I bought one today, will follow this process, and we will have it for lunch on Sunday. Here’s what you do:
A shoulder tastes best when slow cooked with a dry rub applied, so you need to make one. There are a lot of ingredients you can use, but they usually fall into three categories: something sweet, something salty and something savory. The something sweet is easy: brown sugar. The something salty is pretty easy too: salt. The savory includes things like garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, maybe even cumin. Add equal parts of the sugar, salt and the savory ingredients you like and mix together.
Not sure?, put them all in and then adjust if you notice a sour note you don’t like. I will add dry mustard some time (truth be told I’ll add every thing I have in my spice cabinet at times) and sometimes I’ll only mix sugar, salt, paprika, chili powder and onion powder. Truth is, you can’t mess this up. Just make sure you mix enough to coat the whole shoulder. If you err in any direction, add more brown sugar than anything. Sweetness is never a bad thing with pork.
Next you should get a pan big enough to hold this shoulder. Slice an onion and lay it on the bottom of the pan. Grab a sharp knife, take the shoulder and cut about 8 slits into it. Peel 8 cloves of garlic and put them in those slits (onions and garlic are aromatics that really help the flavor). Then take your dry rub and coat all sides of it, but when done make sure you put it back in the pan fat side up as you lay it on the bed of onions. This allows that fat to render while cooking and those juices baste the rest of the shoulder.
Cover (either with a lid or aluminum foil) and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours. If you don’t want to use your oven, you can do this same process in a crockpot. Make sure, however, that the shoulder fits in the crockpot with the lid on (a mistake I’ve made more than once and then had to change plans and use the oven). But either way the pork needs to sit in the refrigerator at least 24 hours with the dry rub on it.
You’re now almost done. When 24 hours is up, uncover and add liquid to the bottom of the pan. I use apple juice, but you can also use water, and I have at times poured Dr. Pepper in as the liquid. The pork needs this to stay moist, and I’ve found the sweeter the liquid, the better the barbecue.
Cover again and if it’s the oven, put it in toward the lowest settings you can (I put mine at 220 degrees) or put it in the crockpot on low. Then walk away for 8 hours. The longer it cooks, the better it’s going to be, so don’t keep peeking at it at 4 or 6 hours. I will usually do all the dry rub one night (like tonight) and put it in the fridge, then tomorrow night I will take it out of the refrigerator right before I go to bed at midnight and put it in the oven. When I get up the next morning, the house smells great, the dogs are walking around with their noses up in the air trying to find this heavenly creation, and the pork is pull-apart tender.
When done, pull the pan out of the oven and let it cool. It should now be so tender you can pull the shoulder bone out cleanly and the meat falls apart. Shred it (pulling as much as the fat out as you can) and put it into another pan. Apply barbecue sauce of your choosing, add a little coleslaw, put on a bun and you will have the best barbecue sandwich you’ve ever hard. We will keep it in a large Tupperware container, store it in the fridge and then only pull out what we need at meal time for barbecue sandwiches, barbecue nachos...I’ve even put it in a ragu sauce and served it on angel hair pasta. Because 8 pounds makes a LOT of barbecue.
It’s cheap, easy and delicious. Only thing it really demands is time.
So get to the store, buy a butt, then get off of yours and make some this weekend….